1791 The District of Columbia was organized.
1847 Alexander Graham Bell was born. (See January 25th and March 7th entries.)
1849 Congress established the Home Department.
1861 Czar Alexander II abolished serfdom.
1931 “The Star Spangled Banner” became the U. S. national anthem.
1969 Apollo 9 was launched to test the lunar landing module.
The history books are filled with laws that Congress should have acted on quickly but didn’t because we the people didn’t want it yet. In fact, Congress sometimes lags considerably behind public sentiment and public practice. Today’s anniversary is a case in point. “The Star Spangled Banner” was written by Frances Scott Key in 1814. And we were using Key’s song as our national anthem shortly after it was published. However, on this date in 1931, Congress officially made it our national anthem. It only took Congress 117 years to catch up to the times.
The man responsible for the swift delivery of more good news, bad news, and gossip than anyone wants to hear was born today in 1847. When Alexander Graham Bell was a young man he left his home in Edinburgh, Scotland, to teach what he called “visible speech”—a sort of sign language—to the hearing impaired in Boston, Massachusetts. In the course of his work, he experimented with a device that transmitted sound electronically. His tests finally succeeded when he called out to his assistant: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” His voice came through a small hom connected to a wire stretched from another part of the house. Bell’s telephone eventually knit sprawling cities and the whole world together. It spawned new businesses. It created a new household necessity.
Nations like buildings must be constructed brick by brick, step by step to ensure a solid foundation and a secure structure. One might think that our nation’s capital—including all of its governing departments—were established all at once. But in truth, it took many decades to create what we now take for granted, and today marks the establishment of two key elements. In 1791, the District of Columbia was organized, establishing a nonpartisan home for our federal government. And in 1849, the U. S. Congress established the Home Department which is now known as the Department of the Interior.
On this day in 1969, some wise men at NASA launched the Apollo 9 space mission to test the soundness of the lunar landing module before having astronauts use it on the moon. Bravery must always be tempered by the wisdom of experience, otherwise brave acts become foolhardy ventures.
While the Civil War between the northern and southern states over the abolition of slavery was still being waged, Czar Alexander II of Russia issued a manifesto which officially abolished serfdom. On this day in 1861, Alexander decreed that no individual could force another to work in exchange for life and little else. The feudal system that had long been synonymous with peasant life was finally dissolved. No longer enslaved by landowners and nobles, an individual was free to work wherever and for whomever he chose; and had the right to be paid for labor.